How to Protect Against Gastroenteritis ~ aka “Stomach Flu”

A couple of days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, my daughter called me from a friend’s house. She had woken at 4:30 AM with projectile vomiting. A couple of her friends had also been ill and sure enough, she was now a victim of dreaded Gastroenteritis, aka “Stomach Flu”.

She is not alone in her anguish. We are in the midst of winter and it’s definitely gastroenteritis season! Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to avoid this misery causing “flu bug” altogether, however, there are some precautions you can take to lessen your chances of contracting this illness.

First a few gastroenteritis facts:

  • Gastroenteritis is a catchall term for infection or irritation of the digestive tract, particularly the stomach and intestine. It is often referred to as the stomach or intestinal flu, although the true influenza virus is not associated with this illness.
  • Gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever.
  • Viral infections are the most common causes of gastroenteritis, followed by bacteria and parasites.
  • You’re most likely to contract viral gastroenteritis when you eat or drink contaminated food or water, or if you share utensils, towels or food with someone who’s infected.
  • The greatest danger with gastroenteritis is dehydration. The loss of fluids through diarrhea and vomiting can upset the body’s electrolyte balance, leading to potentially life-threatening problems.
    • Dehydration should be suspected if a dry mouth, increased or excessive thirst, crying without tears, or scanty urination is experienced.
  • If you’re otherwise healthy, you’ll likely recover without complications. But for infants, older adults and people with compromised immune systems, viral gastroenteritis can be deadly.

Gastroenteritis

Thanks to my Music Man for modelling his perfect hand washing technique.

Prevention:

  • I cannot stress this enough. Wash, wash and then, when you think your hands are clean, wash them again!
  • Diligent washing of your hands with soap and water is probably the best protection against gastroenteritis.
  • If someone in your house is sick, do not share anything! This includes the hand towel in the bathroom, kitchen utensils, plates, bowls, and glasses.
  • Disinfect ANYTHING the ill person may have touched. This includes things like door knobs, toilet handles, faucet handles, cabinet handles, night stand, countertops…etc.  You must thoroughly disinfect any surface that may have been touched.
  • Keep your distance.  If at all possible, avoid close contact with anyone who is ill.
  • The virus is often passed through the fecal-oral route. (A person with a virus has not properly washed their hands after a bowel movement and then handles food that you ingest.)
  • To prevent foodborne infections:
    • Hands, knives and cutting boards used to cut raw meat must be thoroughly disinfected before touching any other food or surface. (Ideally, have a separate, dishwasher safe board for raw meats).
    • Meat and eggs should be cooked thoroughly
    • Leftover food should be promptly refrigerated.
    • Only pasteurized dairy products and pasteurized apple juice should be used.
    • Travelers should:
      • Drink only well-sealed bottled or carbonated water.
      • Avoid ice cubes.
      • Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
      • Avoid raw food — including peeled fruits, raw vegetables and salads — that has been touched by human hands.
      • Avoid undercooked meat and fish.

If you do become ill:

  • Stay hydrated by sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water.
  • Other than ice chips and fluids, give your stomach a rest for a few hours.
  • Ease back into eating with simple foods, such as those found in a BRAT diet:
    • Bananas ~ Rice ~ Applesauce ~ Toast
  • Stop eating if your nausea returns.
  • Until you feel better, avoid dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • NOTE – If you are at all concerned for your health or the health of another, I urge you to immediately contact your health care provider.

{Disclaimer – The material provided in this and other posts on this site is designed for information and educational purposes only. The materials are not intended to be self-diagnostic and/or for self-treatment.  I urge you to use this information as a tool for discussing your condition with your health care practitioner.}

Have you or anyone in your family suffered from gastroenteritis?

What precautions do you take to prevent gastroenteritis in your family?

What precautions do you take when travelling?

 

 

Comments

  1. A couple of the grandchildren and one daughter had that nasty G. I. virus. You’re correct in that hand washing and isolating everything they have touched. That also includes light switches, faucets, door knobs, telephones, remote controls. As a Mother we feel bad for them, but as a caregiver we need to protect not only ourselves but the rest of the family we care for.
    Thanks to the Music Man for his great demo!!

  2. A most timely post. Have a member of our family suffering with the same disorder. As retired nurses we are acutely aware of the benefits of hand washing. Such a simple and easily affordable remedy to help prevent a lot of needless suffering and illness.

    Nice of your hubby to pose for a photo!

  3. Elva Roberts says:

    I really like our post on how to protect against against ‘gastoentritis. I am very careful about washing my hands, keeping cutting boards clean, hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
    I suffered only twice from gastroenteris-once eating an egg sandwich at a small cafe, and eating clam chowder at a New Year’s dance. Unfortunately, on both occassions I did not experience symptoms until the next day.
    I think dishwashers are wonderful in keeping dishes safer for food consumption. Thank you for all your tips.

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